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ITT Tech and The Art Institute: Why Student Veterans Should Be Cautious
Student Veterans of America | September 2, 2016
Written by: Derek Fronabarger, Student Veterans of America's Director of Policy and Christina Giordano, Student Veterans of America's Policy Associate
On June 23, 2016 the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) voted 10-3, recommending the Department of Education de-recognize the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS). NACIQI is an overseer of accreditation bodies, a “gatekeeper for the gatekeepers”. Secretary of Education, as well as House and Senate members, are appointed to this committee. The NACIQI’s vote to recommend the de-recognition of ACICS as an accrediting organization is unprecedented in scope and size and what it would mean for student veterans currently attending ACICS accredited schools.
ACICS accredits approximately 800 institutional locations and enrolls more than 900,000 students. 35,000[i] of those students are veterans using the GI Bill to fund their pursuit of higher education. To scale, when Corinthian Colleges closed in April 2015, this affected 16,000 students total and 450 student veterans.
ACICS is under scrutiny for its negligence in identifying the difference between good and bad actor schools and frivolous accreditation procedures. From 2010-2015 there were 90 cases where schools under federal investigation were also put on ACICS’ honor roll list. Additionally, before the NACIQI vote was official, 13 state attorneys supported a shut down. In the midst of the scandal, Anthony Bieda resigned as the leader of ACICS. At the same time, almost 25% of ACICS employees were laid off.
If ACICS were not to be recognized by the Department of Education, all of the institutions that are solely ACICS accredited will not be eligible to receive Title IV funding after an 18 month transition period. Title IV funding includes Pell Grants, federal student loans and federal student aid. Approximately 129 billion dollars is spent on federal student aid each year and ACICS schools received around 3.3 billion dollars annually from this pool. Although traditional students will have 18 months to find a contingency plan[ii] (transferring to another institution or finishing their degree) the same is not true for student veterans attending these institutes.
ACICS is a less than reputable accrediting agency and they should be derecognized by the Secretary of Education. However, student veterans do not have the same 18 months traditional students have to game out an alternative education plan. Although traditional students are protected by the Department of Education’s congressional statute, the GI Bill is funded by the Veterans Affairs and unfortunately, their congressional statute does not have a safety net for student veterans impacted by the de-accreditation. Because of outdated language, the termination of GI Bill benefits at these schools would be immediate. As soon as the de-accreditation is official[iii], VA cannot administer benefits to any of the 800+ schools. This means 35,000 student veterans have at max 4 months in order to find a new institution. ITT Technical Institute and the Art Institute are on the list of these schools and have large student veteran populations. It is unclear what their contingency plan is for students or if one exists. To see a full list of affected schools please visit here.
Student veterans are non-traditional students and four months is not enough time to develop a backup plan. 46% of student veterans have children, 80% are over the age of 25 and 14% are single parents. BAH is a benefit dispersed to veterans to cover the cost of housing. If they were to lose this benefit, what are the consequences when a student veteran is forced to cover their mortgage with little time to prepare? What is needed is time for student veterans to finish semester classes, figuring out transfer credits, and time to research which institution to transfer. Additionally, all the programs that the Department of Education are developing to protect the 900,000 affected students, such as teach out plans, will be unavailable to the student veteran population if they are forced to leave early.
Our call to action is through legislation allowing student veterans the same 18 months to find an alternative plan. We call upon the Senate and House Representatives to take action in protecting student veterans affected by the de-recognition of ACICS. We are not asking for anything other than allowing the VA to work around their own statute to administer the same benefits that a traditional student would receive. It is important to note that our ask is to treat student veterans the same as you would traditional students. So far, The House Committee on Veterans Affairs, Chairman Miller, and his staff Jon Clark and Kelsey Baron, have done an exemplary job at pushing legislation that would protect the student veteran population.
There is a lack of information when it comes to choosing a college after serving in the military. Therefore, veterans are a vulnerable group of individuals and are sometimes deceived by aggressive and false marketing tactics. At Student Veterans of America, we are against bad actors but ultimately our goal is to assist our brothers and sisters in arms. We hope to educate students about the upcoming de-accreditation and work with congress to allow these veterans the time they need to find a different university. We are focused on student veterans having access and knowledge to attend the best university, institution or company for the degree they’re seeking.
To find information about quality institutions for higher education prospective students can visit our blog, the Department of Education College Scorecard, the National Center for Education Statistics’ College Navigator, and the GI Bill Comparison Tool. To see if your school is one of the schools affected, please visit the ACICS website. For additional help to navigate the process, contact Student Veterans of America at 202-223-4710.
[i] SVA arrived with the 35,000 number by looking at the TOTAL amount of students attending these schools last year. The VA uses a smaller number but is only counting the entire amount of students attending during one month during the summer.
[ii] The 18 months could be less depending on what the Department of Education decides.
[iii] The determination is official after the 10 day appeals process and after the Secretary of Education gives their final notification. We feel this might be before the end of the administration.